Charting a path to a more open future. . . together

Last week, representatives from OCLC Research and LIBER (the Association of European Research Libraries) presented a webinar to kick off the OCLC-LIBER Open Science Discussion Series. This discussion series, which takes place from 24 September through 5 November 2020, is based upon the LIBER Open Science Roadmap, and will help guide research libraries in envisioning the support infrastructure for Open Science (OS) and their role at local, national, and global levels.

OCLC and LIBER had initially planned a collaborative in-person workshop to take place at the OCLC Library Futures Conference (EMEARC 2020) on March 3 in Vienna. But with COVID rapidly advancing globally at that time, the event was cancelled, and we took some time to plan a larger series of webinars and discussions. 

There are a couple of key goals for our collaboration. First of all, our organizations want to jointly offer a forum for discussion and exploration, and to collectively stimulate the exchange of ideas. But secondly, we want this activity to also inform us as we seek to identify research questions that OCLC and LIBER can collaboratively address to advance Open Science. 

The LIBER Open Science Roadmap provides an excellent, well. . . roadmap. . . for this effort. The report calls upon libraries to “advocate for Open Science locally and internationally, to support Open Science through tools and services and to expand the impact of their work through collaboration and partnerships.” It also states that 

“A revolution is required: one which opens up research processes and changes mindsets in favour of a world where policies, tools and infrastructures universally support the growth and sharing of knowledge.” 

LIBER Open Science Roadmap, page 4.

The LIBER Open Science Roadmap

In the September 24 kick-off webinar, Jeannette Frey, LIBER President and Director of the Bibliothèque Cantonale et Universitaire (BCU) Lausanne, provided an overview of the seven focus areas on the LIBER Roadmap, which I will briefly sketch out here. 

Scholarly Publishing

Open access is still not the default publishing model in scholarly communications. Libraries can help move us toward that goal by initiating and supporting institutional Open Science policies, implementing library publishing efforts, and applying LIBER’s five principles for negotiations with publishers


Making data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) is essential to Open Science, and Frey urged libraries to support FAIR data by investing in training and hiring to ensure we have the skills on hand. She also encouraged ongoing education on the FAIR principles, advocacy to governmental bodies, implementing local data management plan (DMP) policies, and collectively work to improve metadata and ensure it is machine readable. 

Research Infrastructure and the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC)

The European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) is an initiative of the European Commission to build the infrastructure necessary to support Open Science. Once it is rolled out, the EOSC will serve as a single source for discovering, accessing, and reusing research data from across European countries, disciplines, and platforms. Frey encouraged libraries to educate campus stakeholders, harmonize institutional policies to the EOSC, and particularly advocate for EOSC training for early career researchers. 

Metrics and Rewards

The LIBER Open Science Roadmap urges openness and transparency as the default drivers for scholarly metrics. Libraries can support the responsible development and use of research metrics by endorsing the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) and the Leiden Manifesto for research metrics. Additionally, libraries play an important role in the development of next-generation metrics upholding the DORA and Leiden ideals, ultimately resulting in new methods for assessing and rewarding researchers in their careers, particularly in ways that support Open Science. 

Open Science Skills

The Report from the European Commission’s 2017 Open Science Skills Working Group emphasizes the need for researchers to acquire Open Science skills to support 21st century knowledge sharing. This includes skills such as open access publishing and creating and reusing FAIR data. Libraries have the opportunity to play a key role by developing multidisciplinary Open Science workflows, and providing training and support, particularly for early career researchers. 

Research Integrity

Research and scholarship should not only be open, it should also maintain standards of research integrity, ethics, and conduct. Libraries can support research integrity through partnership with others in their institutions in order to establish Codes of Conduct for Research Integrity, particularly through the advocacy of core OS principles like transparency and openness. They can also play an important role in training researchers about the legal and ethical aspects of scholarly communication and Open Science. 

Citizen Science

Citizen Science is the participation of the general public in the scientific research process. It is widely practiced worldwide but it is not always open. The LIBER Roadmap recommends greater alignment between Citizen Science and Open Science, with opportunities for libraries to support through infrastructure, training, and policy development. 

OCLC Is Working to Prioritize Open Content 

Rachel Frick, Executive Director of the OCLC Research Library Partnership, shared about OCLC’s effort to support Open Science. This includes the OCLC Research publication, Open Content Activities in Libraries: Same Direction, Different Trajectories—Findings from the 2018 OCLC Global Council Survey which seeks to answer a question posed by the OCLC Global Council, “What is the status of open access and open content in libraries around the globe?” The resulting report examines the current and planned open content activities of more than 500 research and university libraries worldwide and confirms that research libraries are highly involved in open content activities (97%). Furthermore, these libraries report significant plans for additional activities in the future, particularly in the areas of research data management and interactions with (digitized) open collections through statistical and machine learning techniques, i.e., “collections as data.” 

For this report, and for OCLC in general, we use a broad definition of Open Content, inclusive of content that is digital, accessible immediately and online (without technical barriers), freely available, and fully reusable. Naturally, this includes Open Science outputs, but is also expansive enough to embrace other non-scholarly content managed by libraries. 

OCLC is committed to privileging open content in order to deliver on our mission as a library cooperative.

That means increasing access to diverse open content, integrating open content into OCLC services, supporting libraries and library-driven open content, and dedicating staffing resources to supporting these efforts. 

The goal is to prioritize open content alongside licensed content, better connecting researchers quickly and seamlessly to the knowledge they need. OCLC is working with publishers worldwide to ensure that their open content is readily identified and accessible in WorldCat and OCLC’s library services. We are also working with open access directories like the Directory of Open Access Journals, HathiTrust, and the Internet Archive. Furthermore, the OCLC Digital Collection Gateway provides a tool for libraries to harvest the metadata from their local, open access repositories into WorldCat. And through our collaboration with UnPaywall, WorldCat users can now be seamlessly directed to the open resource. Today WorldCat users can filter for only open access content, a faceting option also available in other OCLC services. 

Throughout much of 2020, OCLC staff members have worked to provide extended and free e-content during the pandemic. Additionally over 80 library collections have been made openly available during the pandemic, one of the many ways that OCLC is working to support the library community during this time. 

Optimizing open content discoverability and access is heavily dependent upon metadata. In partnership with the German National Library, OCLC has worked to establish improved ways of indicating open and restricted access in MARC 21.  Being able to express openness in a machine readable way will have a big impact on discoverability. This metadata feature is now in place for new bibliographic MARC 21 records. OCLC continues to explore how to retrospectively upgrade existing records as well as how to transition to a 21st century shared entity management infrastructure for library linked data work, work being currently undertaken with financial support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

Register for the next webinar

We will be hosting seven small, interactive group discussions over the course of the next six weeks, providing an opportunity for in-depth discussion on the seven focus areas in the LIBER Roadmap. The goal of these discussions is to collectively explore a vision and path forward for the future role of libraries in these areas. Unfortunately, seating is limited for these sessions and we’ve already reached capacity. However, we will be synthesizing these discussions and sharing with the community via blog posts here on the OCLC Research Hanging Together blog and also through the LIBER website.  We also invite you to attend the concluding wrap-up webinar on 5 November, which will provide an overview of the discussions and proposed next steps. You may register for that event here, and it is open to everyone in the scholarly communications community.